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Hong Kong - Self-Employment and Business Start Ups

Although most expats relocate to Hong Kong to work with a company that is already established, some do move there to start their own companies or to be self-employed. While this can be more difficult in some ways, especially when securing the appropriate visa, it is still possible. In fact, The World Bank rates Hong Kong as the 6th easiest country in which to start a business.

A work visa is necessary for employment in Hong Kong. Normally, a company would sponsor this visa for you. If you are intending to start your own business, however, then you apply for your own work visa. Furthermore, if you remain in Hong Kong for 7 years then you can fulfill the residency requirement, apply for Permanent Residency, and you won’t need a work visas any longer.

When you are applying for your work visa, you must convince the Hong Kong Immigration Department that they should issue you a business visa. You might need to prove that you have special skills that are difficult to find in Hong Kong, that you will be able to support yourself and your dependents, and that your business will contribute to Hong Kong economically and socially. As a foreigner, you must convince the Immigration Department that your skills and specialties are in need in Hong Kong. There are business immigration consultancies in Hong Kong that can help you.

One of the categories of the Hong Kong visa scheme grants entry to those who wish to join a company or establish their own business. This visa does not extend to residents from Mainland China, Afghanistan, Albania, Cambodia, Cuba, Laos, Nepal, North Korea, and Vietnam. More specific information regarding the investment visa can be found at:

When filling out the application, you must include your professional and educational qualifications. A clean police record is necessary as well. You will also still need a sponsor to establish a business in Hong Kong. A sponsor may be someone who is acquainted with you, is at least 18 years old, and a Hong Kong resident. The applicable forms can be downloaded online from the Immigration Department at:

Immigration Department
Immigration Tower,
7 Gloucester Road,
Wan Chai, Hong KongTel: (852) 2824 6111

Documents that you will have to submit, along with the forms, include: a copy of your passport, a recent passport sized photograph, background information on your business activities, a two-year business plan, a copy of your business registration, and proof of your professional experience and academic qualifications.

You must also choose a legal entity and a business name. The Hong Kong Companies registry ( has a search engine that will let you know whether or not your business name is already taken. Your name must be approved after you have chosen it.

You must then choose the type of legal entity that you will have. Your choices are: limited company, subsidiary, sole proprietorship, and partnership. The majority of people who start a business in Hong Kong have a limited liability company (LLC). With these, you only need a name, one or several directors, one to 50 shareholders, a company secretary, a (physical) address, and some capital. Most companies in Hong Kong initially have a startup of HK$10,000 although there is no legal minimum. If you are going to be self-employed without any employees then you might consider a sole proprietorship.

When you register your company, you must send a copy of your company’s name, the type of business it is, the number of shares taken, the capital, and the signature of at least one individual who is listed as a subscriber. You must also include the Statement of Compliance on Incorporation of a Company (Form NC1A). The application fee is HK$1720 but is subject to a refund of HK$1425 for an unsuccessful application.

Since Hong Kong operates a territorial basis of taxation , only those profits or income that are gained Hong Kong are taxable. Currently, the corporate profits tax rate is 17.5%. There is no tax on capital gains. A salaries tax is imposed on income arising in Hong Kong from any employment. This is calculated on a sliding scale that ranges from 2% - 20%.

All new businesses have to be registered with the Business Registration Office of the Inland Revenue Department within one month of its establishment. For a one year certificate, with levy, the fee is HK$2,600.

For more information about starting a business and information for non-residents, visit: Business and Trade

Inland Revenue Department
Central Enquiry Counter
1/F, Revenue Tower
5 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai
Hong Kong
Tel: 852 187 8088

You might also need to have a special government license or permit before you start your business in Hong Kong. You may need to apply for specific government licenses, permits, certificates and approvals to start your business operations in Hong Kong. To see if there are any specific licenses and permits necessary for your business, visit

Support and Consultation Centre for SMEs
M/F, Trade and Industry Department Tower
700 Nathan Road, Mongkok Kowloon
Tel: (852) 2398 5133

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